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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

*cue Andy Williams*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).

In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.

This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.

Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.

A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.

Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.

The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).

Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.

Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.

Columbus was all over the Metropolitan Division this season, but went all-in at the trade deadline, adding Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for the stretch run.

Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.

Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.

Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.

In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.

While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.

After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.

That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS

4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*

4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*

4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*

*If necessary

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)

For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.

Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.

Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.

The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).

Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.

The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.

Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.

Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million boy wonder man.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.

Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.

Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.

To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*

4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*

4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*

*If necessary

M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?

Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.

After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.

Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.

Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).

The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).

Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.

The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.

Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.

Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.

Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.

Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.

Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.

This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2

4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS

4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*

4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*

4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)

Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.

That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.

New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).

Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.

That same trap won the Cup last season.

This season, Trotz has Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee as his main attractions instead of names like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.

Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?

Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.

Patric Hornqvist is also another silent killer option for Sullivan when his team needs a clutch goal– and that’s on top of Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel throughout the rest of the lineup.

The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.

How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?

Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*

4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*

4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*

Team effort lifts Bruins over Islanders, 5-0

Sean Kuraly scored two goals in the Boston Bruins’, 5-0, victory over the New York Islanders to kick off Boston’s four-game road trip on Tuesday night at NYCB Live.

Tuukka Rask (25-10-5 record, 2.39 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 41 games played) made 13 saves on 13 shots against for his 4th shutout of the season in the win for Boston.

Islanders goaltender, Robin Lehner (20-12-5, 2.27 GAA, .925 SV% in 39 GP) stopped 34 out of 39 shots faced for an .872 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 44-20-9 (97 points) on the season and remain 2nd in the Atlantic Division, while New York fell to 42-24-7 (91 points) and 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.

The B’s are now 16-13-6 on the road this season and 8-0-0 in their last eight trips to New York against the Isles. In addition to dropping their last eight games on home ice to the Bruins, New York is 1-11-0 in their last 12 games and 2-11-1 in their last 14 games against Boston.

Boston is also 29-6-5 when scoring first this season and 26-1-3 when leading after two periods.

Bruce Cassidy provided several updates on his long list of injuries before Tuesday night’s action, revealing that Kevan Miller (upper body) would not travel with the team, while Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) would rejoin the lineup sometime on the road trip.

Torey Krug (concussion) was feeling better and will travel with the team, but has not been cleared to return to action.

David Pastrnak, in the meantime, was back in the lineup since having surgery on a tendon in his left thumb and was placed in his usual spot on the first line right wing with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

As a result of Pastrnak’s return, Danton Heinen slid down to the third line left wing alongside Kuraly at center and Chris Wagner on the right side.

Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Charlie Coyle remained a trio on the second line and Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and David Backes were unchanged.

On defense, Cassidy left belated birthday boy (who turned 42-years-old on Monday), Zdeno Chara, with Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pair, while moving Connor Clifton up to the left side of Brandon Carlo on the second blue line pair.

John Moore suited up alongside Steven Kampfer to round out the defense.

Kuraly (7) kickstarted the action early on the road with his first goal in 23 games as he sent the puck past Lehner to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead at 1:12 of the first period.

McAvoy (19) had the only assist on Kuraly’s first goal since Jan. 17th.

Boston came out of the gates roaring and dominated the pace of play, outshooting New York, 14-2, after 20 minutes of action.

The Islanders led in blocked shots (9-5), giveaways (6-3) and face-off win percentage (53-47) heading into the first intermission, while the Bruins led in takeaways (5-1) and hits (11-10).

Both teams had yet to see any time on the skater advantage entering the second period.

Four seconds into the middle frame, Chara squared off with Matt Martin and the two veteran NHLers exchanged fisticuffs. The 42-year-old captain of the B’s became the first player 42 or older to earn a fighting major since Mark Recchi (42 years, 285 days old) did so on Nov. 13, 2010 with the Bruins.

Chara’s birthday was on Monday.

After Cal Clutterbuck turned the puck over in his own defensive zone, Acciari (4) scooped up the rubber biscuit and sent it past Lehner’s left pad to give Boston a two-goal lead at 2:52 of the second period.

Acciari’s goal was unassisted and made it, 2-0, Bruins.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Pastrnak was penalized for high-sticking Adam Pelech— in Pelech’s 200th career NHL game– at 7:27.

The Islanders did not convert on the ensuing power play and recorded one shot on goal.

Late in the period, Kuraly (8) delivered again with his second goal of the game off a wraparound pass from Heinen.

The Bruins led, 3-0, at 16:17 of the second period and Heinen (21) had the only assist on the goal.

A little over a minute later, Pelech hooked Chara and received a minor infraction at 17:46. Boston did not score on the resulting power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 24-8, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in takeaways (8-4) and face-off win% (53-48), while New York led in blocked shots (16-6), giveaways (17-7) and hits (20-18).

Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Bergeron (28) received a pass from Nordstrom and sniped a shot into the twine to make it, 4-0, Boston.

Nordstrom (4) and Moore (8) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s goal at 6:32 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, DeBrusk was guilty of hooking Islanders forward, Anthony Beauvillier, and cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:11.

Upon leaving the box, DeBrusk capitalized on a flubbed play back to the point for New York and had a quick breakaway entering the attacking zone for Boston.

DeBrusk (23) scored top shelf on Lehner’s glove side to give the B’s a five-goal lead, 5-0, at 10:20 of the third period on an unassisted effort.

There were no more goals or penalties thereafter as the Bruins downed the Islanders, 5-0, at the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 39-13, as well as face-off win% (53-47). New York wrapped up the blowout loss with the advantage in blocked shots (20-9), giveaways (22-12) and hits (23-20).

The Islanders went 0/2 on the power play on Tuesday, while the Bruins finished 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins swing through New Jersey on Thursday, Florida on Saturday and Tampa next Monday before returning home to face the New York Rangers on March 27th. Boston hosts the Florida Panthers on March 30th before traveling to Detroit on the 31st to close out the month.

In their head-to-head season series, Cassidy’s crew swept Barry Trotz and his Islanders bunch, 3-0-0, in the regular season.

DTFR Podcast #129- Top Line Stars

Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Realistic Predictions for the 2016-2017 Season

By: Nick Lanciani

Anaheim Ducks

Unknown-1The Anaheim Ducks added Jared Boll in the offseason to help bolster Team USA’s heart and grit rating at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Oh wait. Anaheim also brought back Randy Carlyle as head coach.

So basically it’ll be Throwback Thursday everyday this season for the Ducks, since it’ll be ten years since their 2007 Stanley Cup championship with Carlyle and crew. Why not bring back the maroon and jade uniforms while we’re at it?


Arizona Coyotes

Unknown-3Youth is not just prevalent on the Arizona Coyotes roster this season, but in their front office as well, as 27-year-old, John Chayka, was hired as the youngest GM in NHL history.

Max Domi and Anthony Duclair do all they can to convince Shane Doan to become the next Jaromir Jagr and maybe then we can start talking about a potential Cup run for the Coyotes. A plethora of defensemen fight for six roster spots and are narrowed down throughout the season, Hunger Games style.

Boston Bruins

Unknown-7Big and Bad are Backes. Wait, that’s not it. The Boston Bruins added David Backes, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore to their group of forwards this offseason all while seeming to forget that they still need another top-4 defenseman (let alone an entire defense).

Like most years of Boston sports (okay, with the exception of the last fifteen years), the Bruins will probably narrowly miss the playoffs again, much to the dismay of their hardcore fan base that still goes to every game like it’s their job. Or am I confusing them with the guys on the roster? At least 63 + 37 = 100.

Buffalo Sabres

Unknown-2So the Buffalo Sabres look to do things this year. That’s a thing, I’m pretty sure. Major loss? Chad Johnson left the team via free agency and went to Calgary. Major gains?

They brought in Kyle Okposo and everything else remained pretty much the same, so they should probably be on the outside looking in again, unless they become the new Ottawa Senators (forged by youth and a backup goalie that takes over from February through their early first round playoff exit in April).

All kidding aside, the Sabres remain hopeful. Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen finally got paid (at a discount, none the less— Flo from Progressive would be happy).

Calgary Flames

Unknown-4What did the Calgary Flames do this offseason? They got some goaltending. Brian Elliott was acquired via a trade with St. Louis and Chad Johnson came over from Buffalo in free agency, so that’s two new goalies for a total of about half as many goalies that the Philadelphia Flyers have played in the last twenty years (though Calgary is starting to catch up).

Johnny Gaudreau is still unsigned, so that could be problematic, since he’s like, Calgary’s entire offense. At least, that’s what the fake Kanye West account told me— just kidding, he finally signed the other day. Given the state of the Western Conference, it’s safe to say they won’t be flaming their competition in the standings.

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes LogoBiggest additions: Lee Stempniak, Viktor Stalberg and Teuvo Teravainen (so basically just Teravainen, if you’re playing along with the rebuild at home). Matt Tennyson was also brought in on the blue line via free agency from San Jose, so there’s that.

Hurricanes fans, take solace in the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets exist in your division, because at least Carolina won’t finish last with an improved New Jersey Devils team (minus their defense) looking to jump ahead of the Hurricanes in the standings.

Chicago Blackhawks

Unknown-22013, 2015— shoot, this year’s Stanley Cup Final is in an odd numbered year, isn’t it? Well, forget all of the season predictions, congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks. They’ll probably just insert some prospect alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook or someone and be fine.

I mean, that’s been the formula since 2010 anyway. Win the Cup, trade a bunch of people because of the salary cap over the next offseason or two, win the Cup again and do it all over again. The only problem is, the Blackhawks have got the toughest division, so they’ll probably still make the playoffs, at least.

Colorado Avalanche

Unknown-1The Colorado Avalanche added two Bourques to their team (Gabriel Bourque and Rene Bourque) so they’re obviously hoping to double their efforts of their 2001 Stanley Cup championship with legendary defenseman Ray Bourque. What’s that? They’re not related? Nice try Joe Sakic.

While the Av’s were perfect in the preseason, sadly none of it counted and they’ll start 0-0-0 just like everybody else. New head coach, Jared Bednar, won’t be dismantling any stanchions this year, so that’s good news, glass between the benches at Pepsi Center.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoZach Werenski made the team, so now they’ll have a defense. Oh, sorry, didn’t you there Ryan Murray, Seth Jones and Jack Johnson. But all kidding aside, these guys just need to stay healthy— I’m looking at you Sergei Bobrovsky.

Their group of forwards kind of have it going on. But sadly, this isn’t the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets, unlike the rest of the teams in Ohio it seems. Also, how it is possible for Werenski, a player from Michigan University, to not get run out of Ohio? I’ll wait.

Dallas Stars

Unknown-2The Dallas Stars have the same goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the same core group of forwards primarily in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and an improved defense with the loss of Kris Russell.

Somehow every year, this band of veterans impresses the hockey world by combatting speed and skill with heart and grit (minus some of the grit). But just like last year, they probably still won’t figure it out in the playoffs between their two goaltenders and fail miserably (in the eyes of Stars fans).

Detroit Red Wings

UnknownThe Detroit Red Wings added Steve Ott (grit), Thomas Vanek (heart) and Frans Nielsen (actually, kind of good), this offseason to their group of forwards that doesn’t include Pavel Datsyuk for the first time in like, forever.

Datsyuk was traded to Arizona at the draft after he announced his retirement from the NHL to go play in the KHL back home before ultimately wrapping up his professional hockey career. And with that, so ends the Red Wings playoff appearance streak this season. But at least Petr Mrazek will be their number one goalie, right?

Edmonton Oilers

Unknown-5Rogers Place looks pretty cool. Milan Lucic Bruinsinizes the team. Peter Chiarelli traded Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson. And that is all. Just kidding, Chiarelli also traded Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues for practically nothing (so just like the Hall trade).

Connor McDavid was named captain and the team got worse. Kris Russell was added to the defense and Eric Gryba was not re-signed, then PTO’ed, then signed to a new deal with Edmonton, then probably placed on waivers. Sounds like things are business as usual for the Oilers.

Florida Panthers

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016James Reimer signed as the backup goaltender to Roberto Luongo for the Florida Panthers this offseason, so if you’re a fan of the 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs or 2011 Vancouver Canucks, maybe Florida is your team (until games actually matter in the playoffs).

Jason Demers and Keith Yandle were two major additions to the Panthers blue line, while they managed to finagle Jared McCann out of Vancouver in exchange for Erik Gudbranson. So basically, the Panthers are poised to dominate the Atlantic Division once again in the regular season. Can I get a Jaromir Jagr for the Hart Trophy to with it?

Los Angeles Kings

Unknown-3The Los Angeles Kings most recently added Devin Setoguchi to their batch of forwards, so that summarizes everything about their offseason. Props to Setoguchi for making a comeback in the NHL. Shouts to the Kings for having a cool arena by the way. I stopped by there in August.

Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar all won awards last season, so that should have some indication of how they’ll do this season. They’ll probably make the Western Conference Final and have to play the Chicago Blackhawks again, won’t they?

Minnesota Wild

Unknown-2The Minnesota Wild added Eric Staal to their roster this offseason and most recently (and more important than Staal), Teemu Pulkkinen.

Chris Stewart returned to the Wild organization after a trip around the league (or so it seemed) and everything else pretty much remained the same.

So if you’re a Minnesota fan, first, good luck surviving the winter (as usual). Second, nobody knows how the Vikings are doing it, but they’re doing it. And third, the Wild aren’t going to be that great this season, so pick one of the first two options to bandwagon, if you would please.

Montreal Canadiens

Unknown-1The Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban. That is all.

But seriously, how could you, Montreal? Other than that, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber are all part of the team now, while Carey Price will miss the first game with the flu and Mike Condon got claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh. Looks like the team’s all yours, Al Montoya.

Nashville Predators

UnknownThe Nashville Predators acquired P.K. Subban this offseason. What were the Montreal Canadiens thinking?

The Preds are letting their forwards develop and made their defense significantly better by getting rid of Shea Weber for Subban. Now if only Pekka Rinne would return to vintage Pekka Rinne form, then this could the year for Nashville. Then again, they’re in the same division as Chicago in an odd numbered playoff year, so…

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils LogoThe New Jersey Devils restructured their forwards with the additions of Taylor Hall, Beau Bennett, Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau, but they still lack a defense (mostly). Brandon Gormley, Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey are notable (somewhat) additions to the blue line in the Garden State.

Andy Greene remains one of the strangest trivia questions when someone asks you “who is the current captain of the Devils?” And Cory Schneider is still a highly underrated goaltender that somehow manages to survive without a team in front of him. But at least New Jersey is gearing up for the underdog of the year status.

New York Islanders

New York Islanders LogoThe New York Islanders added a lot of veteran presence to their noticeably Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum-less organization (yes, I took a shot at Barclays Center, there). Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd and Dennis Seidenberg are now members of the Islanders and well, at least Seidenberg’s contract is only for a year.

As long as Jaroslav Halak plays like he did at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (minus the final loss to Canada) and stays healthy, John Tavares and crew could lead this team further in the playoffs than in recent memory. Time may be winding down on their Cup contention clock, since Tavares is looking for an extension and well, everyone else on their roster is getting older.

New York Rangers

New York Rangers LogoIf winning the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes counts for anything than the New York Rangers are winners. But they probably won’t be winners of much this season. Granted, they could make a playoff run (or miss it altogether), the same tune rings true, Henrik Lundqvist cannot be a team on his own.

Josh Jooris and Mika Zibanejad are big name additions to the offense. Okay, so they’re just names added to the roster. Nick Holden is new to the Blueshirts blue line and well, they’re still an aging defense. Best of luck to the youth in the New York, like Vesey, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and others for getting to play more than one position this year on the same shift.

Ottawa Senators

Unknown-6Chris Kelly is back with the Ottawa Senators this season after playing 11 games last year with the Boston Bruins and recovering from a broken femur. Derick Brassard was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan switched his number from 6 to 9 (get your mind out of the gutter, Internet).

Otherwise, the Senators remain virtually the same. On the outside looking in, but probably raising a few eyebrows for their late season surge. They’re still waiting on their youth, which is at least working better than it is for their counterparts in Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who, although contrary to popular belief, might actually be better this year).

Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe Philadelphia Flyers already appear to be in midseason form, what with Radko Gudas‘s six-game suspension and their apparent preference for Steve Mason as their number one goalie, as usual.

Boyd Gordon and Dale Weise are additions (though, can you really call them that?) and Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov made the team from training camp (and the last couple of years of drafting), so the Flyers appear to be a middle of the pack team again this year.

Additionally, they’ll face off with the Pittsburgh Penguins in this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on February 25, 2017 as part of the league’s 50th season celebration of the 1967 expansion. So yeah, that’s all I got for Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Penguins

pittsburgh_penguins_logoThe Pittsburgh Penguins have virtually the same team from Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final and look to defend their championship title without Sidney Crosby for at least game one of an 82 game regular season schedule.

New goaltender, Mike Condon, could make things interesting when comes time to decide between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray before the 2017 expansion draft, since he could likely become Murray’s backup.

San Jose Sharks

UnknownJust like the Penguins, the San Jose Sharks roster remains virtually untouched since their loss in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which kind of makes you wonder, did anyone remember that there was an offseason?

Matt Tennyson jettisoned to Carolina (I was dying to juxtaposition those words), where he was now sent down to the Charlotte Checkers. Roman Polak went back to Toronto and honestly, that was probably for the better for San Jose. Aaron Dell is the new backup to Martin Jones and would someone just let Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau win a Cup this year? I mean, if Phil Kessel can, then surely those guys can too.

St. Louis Blues

UnknownThe St. Louis Blues will be consciously uncoupling with Ken Hitchcock at the end of the season in his farewell to coaching tour. Mike Yeo has already been named as his replacement and has begun barking out orders at practice, similar to his meltdown in Minnesota (though I have not confirmed that).

They lost David Backes to free agency, because the salary cap exists and good luck to the front office in St. Louis to try figure that one out in the next few years. Meanwhile they added Nail Yakupov for virtually nothing, though in their defense, they already had their own Yakupov in Magnus Paajarvi on their roster, so maybe this time they can make it work.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Unknown-3Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning finally agreed to a three year bridge deal extension, so Lightning fans rejoice, your fountain of youth is still intact for now. Steven Stamkos stuck around for eight more years and GM Steve Yzerman can now take the next six months off until the playoffs when he has to start worrying about how far his team will go and what to do with Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Bolts look like geniuses here, for having developed their players well over the last few seasons and will more than likely dominant the Atlantic Division with their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. Sadly, Tampa probably won’t win the Cup because the Blackhawks exist and that whole 2013, 2015, 20??? pattern exists.

Toronto Maple Leafs

UnknownAuston Matthews.

(Colby told me to just write that. I think it works).

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Canucks

UnknownLoui Eriksson joined fellow Swedes, Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver this offseason. So in other news, Team Sweden, feel free to send the Canucks some of your jerseys, because after looking at the rest of the roster, I’m sure they don’t want to be associated with whatever Vancouver’s front office is doing.

Vancouver added Erik Gudbranson. At the cost of Jared McCann to the Florida Panthers. Actually, from the sound of it, it wasn’t a cost at all. The Canucks hate youths. Millennials ruin everything. Best of luck to you Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.

Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals LogoThe Washington Capitals acquired Lars Eller this offseason, so that’s good, but they also signed Brett Connolly via free agency (so that’s bad). But let’s be honest, the Capitals will probably make the former 6th overall pick better than he’s ever been. Or at least playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom will probably help with that.

So basically, the outlook for Washington is this: they’re a good team, they’ll do well, Braden Holtby is elite and they’ll win a lot. Maybe a Cup run is in their future.

Winnipeg Jets

Unknown-4Patrik Laine was selected 2nd overall at this year’s draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Blake Wheeler was named captain and Winnipeg finally moved on from Ondrej Pavelec (by sending him to Manitoba).

What’s that? Jacob Trouba is still a RFA? He wants to be TRADED? Forget all of the good storylines going for the Jets, the Trouba dilemma overshadows everything especially after Rasmus Ristolainen re-signed with the Sabres and began the end of the stare down between Ristolainen, Hampus Lindholm and Trouba as to which RFA defenseman would make a move first. So Kevin Cheveldayoff, who are you going to trade Trouba to? Asking for a friend. No, but seriously, he doesn’t want to miss playing time.

*Honorable mention* Las Vegas _____ Knights

Honestly, somebody just name the team already. I want to start working on coming up with a uniform in NHL 17’s Franchise Mode for you, Bill Foley.

President’s Trophy Winner

If you’re Canadian, this doesn’t matter. If you’re American, good luck. Oh, you meant the President’s Trophy, as in “the team with the best record at the end of the regular season in the NHL”? Well, probably can’t go wrong with the Washington Capitals for that one, unlike their other Washington counterparts that have marred records.

1st Place in the Atlantic Division at season’s end– Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning, basically the entire state of Florida

One of the teams in Florida will win the Atlantic Division, that’s really all I know.

1st Place in the Metropolitan Division at season’s end– Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s no cakewalk, but Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury live up to that “two is better than one” mantra (sorry Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss).

1st Place in the Central Division at season’s end– Nashville Predators

It doesn’t really matter who clinches the Central Division this season because they’re still going to lose in the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs.

1st Place in the Pacific Division at season’s end– Los Angeles Kings

Winning the division isn’t everything. Just ask the 2015-2016 Anaheim Ducks and the late 2000s/early 2010s San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately what this means for Los Angeles is that they’ll be out in seven games in the first round.